Watch This: Long term unemployment, 1967-2011

by | December 1st, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Watch This | Comments (2)

This animated graph, produced by the TellTaleChart, illustrates the unprecedented spike in long-term unemployment during and after the Great Recession.  The current median duration of unemployment (or weeks out of work) represents a dramatic departure from decades of unemployment trends.  As the producer glumly observes, “The median duration of unemployment was already at 20 weeks when the recession began.  It climbed to over 25 weeks in the summer of 2010 and has settled in, now almost three years into the recovery, at well above 20 weeks.  This of course is no recovery at all.”  The duration of unemployment in Oklahoma nearly doubled between 2006 and 2010, with the latest data putting the median weeks out of work in the state at 12.3 weeks.


View other clips from OKPolicy’s “Watch This’ video series:

Packed Oklahoma prisons, rising costs

Creativity & Learning

The Great Recession

Making Ends Meet: The Medicare Generation

A tale of two (Oklahoma) cities

Employers better off keeping workers' coverage under new health law, Oklahoma study shows

by | November 30th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (1)

This is part of an ongoing series of posts examining the Affordable Care Act, including previous posts on health insurance exchangesrate review and temporary high risk pools. For links to previous posts and additional resources, please visit the health care reform page on our website. 

Employer-based health insurance coverage is the single largest pillar of the American health insurance system. Unemployment and rising costs continue to erode employer-based coverage, but more than half of all Americans – 169 million –  are still insured through employers.  The federal tax code has long encouraged employers to provide coverage by making employer health care expenditures tax-deductible.

The new federal health care law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aims to expand health insurance coverage in the United States in part by strengthening employer-based coverage. The law provides sizable tax credits to small businesses (≤25 employees) that offer insurance. Beginning in 2014, large employers (≥50 employees) will have new responsibilities to provide coverage.  Known as the ‘play or pay’ provision, the law outlines that:

When you want something done, do it

by | November 29th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Matters | Comments (4)

Recently Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs, suggested that school gyms, playgrounds, and athletic fields should be opened to the public after hours. She argued that these “shared-use agreements” for public facilities would reduce obesity, especially in poor communities that may not have access to private gyms, parks, or safe sidewalks.

Aragon’s idea would be an effective and efficient use of public dollars based on a simple premise: the state identifies a public good and directly provides it. Contrast that with an obesity-fighting idea from a few years ago, when Sen. Mike Mazzei proposed a tax credit to reimburse 20 percent of the cost of health club memberships. This would have been more expensive than simply opening up schools and limited to those who could afford 80 percent of a health club membership. In addition, a substantial part of the credit would be wasted on those who would have joined a health club without it.

Sen. Mazzei’s tax credit was not made law, but it is emblematic of a common problem in public policy. Because we have stigmatized direct government action in many areas, we look for workarounds that are less efficient than if the state just went ahead and provided the service. This creates gaps in both efficiency and accountability.

Another example is how the state has encouraged rehabilitation of historic buildings. Lawmakers decided this was in the public interest, so they created a tax credit. However, because the credits were transferable, recipients sold many of them at 80 or 90 cents on the dollar. The buyers likely had no relationship to the rehabilitation project, so a significant percentage of the money was immediately wasted.

continue reading When you want something done, do it

Guest Blog (Betty Casey): Don't Wait For Superman

by | November 28th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (3)

Betty Casey has taught high school English, middle school gifted and talented, and Freshman Comp., English Lit. and Humanities at the University of Oklahoma and Tulsa Community College. She is currently managing editor of TulsaKids Magazine, a monthly parenting publication.

In the past few months I’ve had the pleasure of watching three screenings about public education: “Waiting for Superman”, “The Race to Nowhere” and, most recently, “American Teacher.” Of the three, “American Teacher” contributed the most realistic and valuable information to the dialogue about what’s wrong and what’s right in American education.

The documentary follows five public school teachers. While “Waiting for Superman” blames teachers (and teachers’ unions) for everything from low standardized test scores to young people going to prison, “American Teacher” actually lets the teachers tell their story — and it’s a story of heartbreak and courage in the face of low pay, poor working conditions, and lack of respect.

Are there bad teachers? Sure. But does anyone seriously believe that our schools are suddenly filled with bad teachers? My children who went through Tulsa Public Schools were all well prepared for college. Like the dedicated teachers in the film, my children’s teachers were available early in the morning and late into the night. One of their high school math teachers would stay and tutor kids as long as they needed him, sometimes until 9 or 10 pm.

continue reading Guest Blog (Betty Casey): Don't Wait For Superman

The Weekly Wonk – November 23, 2011

by | November 23rd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

This week OK Policy published, “An Incomplete Recovery: The State Budget Outlook 2012-2015,” the third in our annual series of forecasts for the state budget.  This blog post summarizes the forecast and lays out what’s at stake in the coming years if we don’t put the state on a sound fiscal path.  Our budget projections were covered this week by the Tulsa World and the Associated Press.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk – November 23, 2011

Hunger by the Numbers: How many football stadiums would it take…

by | November 23rd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Poverty | Comments (2)

In September, the US Department of Agriculture released its annual report on household food security. For the 3-year period from 2008-10, an average of one in six Oklahoma households, 16.4 percent, experienced food insecurity. This means that “at times during the year, these households were uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for foods.” This was the 6th highest rate in the nation, up from 14.6 percent for the period from 2004-06. Nationally, 14.2 percent of households were food insecure in 2o10.

Given Oklahoma’s population of 3.75 million, and assuming that households experiencing food insecurity are the same size as the average of all households, some 607,000 Oklahomans live in households that struggle with access to adequate food.  Imagine that on a Saturday afternoon this fall, the population in households that experience food insecurity in Oklahoma were all invited down to Norman and Stillwater to attend the football games.


The food insecure could fill OU’s Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (capacity: 82,122) AND OSU’s Boone Pickens Stadium (capacity: 60,218)  four times over… with enough people left over to fill University of Tulsa’s H.A. Chapman Stadium (capacity: 30,000).

To find out ways to help fight hunger and food insecurity in Oklahoma, contact the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma or the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

May everyone have a joyful and healthy Thanksgiving holiday.

Note: This is an updated version of a blog post we first ran in November 2010.

In The Know: DHS bombarded with complaints over cuts to heating assistance

by | November 23rd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Oklahoma DHS is fielding numerous complaints about cuts to a federal program that provides heating assistance to low-income residents during the winter. Gov. Fallin is seeking federal disaster assistance for people affected by recent earthquakes in Lincoln and Pottawatomie Counties. The Governor’s “Feeding Oklahoma” drive collected enough for 1.6 million meals, but food needs in Oklahoma remain dire.

The OKC Council voted to use MAPS 3 use tax funds to pay for a new police headquarters and municipal courts building. The Oklahoma State Department of Health is joining with communities worldwide to promote HIV testing and to put a face to HIV/AIDS in recognition of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. NewsOK discusses some details of Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind waiver request.

The OK Policy Blog features a glossary of terms to help you follow the tax debate. The Number of the Day is the average annual health insurance premium for an employer-sponsored family plan in Oklahoma in 2010. In today’s Policy Note, a nationwide poll of small business owners shows that, contrary to claims by lobbyists, very few see taxes and regulation as the biggest barriers to their success.

In The Know will go on hiatus beginning tomorrow. We will return December 5.

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Read This: A glossary of tax terminology

by | November 22nd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (1)

If all the recent talk about tax credits and exemptions and tax reform have left you scratching your head, you’re not alone.  Keeping up with the tax debate – and its accompanying jargon and terminology – can challenge even the most committed news-and-politics-junkie.  Fortunately, this glossary of key terms from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy can help.  The glossary accompanies ITEP’s updated ‘Guide to Fair State and Local Taxes‘.  Print it out and keep a copy handy for the next time you need to make sense of the state’s tax policies.  The glossary includes definitions like:

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In The Know: Entry exam for kindergartners part of Oklahoma's grant application

by | November 22nd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Oklahoma’s Race to the Top early childhood grant application focuses on creating an entry exam for kindergartners and a better data system. OK Policy previously mapped out how federal, state, local, and private funds are supporting young children in Oklahoma. The Huffington Post interviewed Jean Hendrickson, Executive Director of the Oklahoma A+ Schools Program, which is becoming a national model for arts education.

The OK Policy Blog introduces the latest in our annual multi-year forecasts for the state budget. Oklahoma construction contractors told a legislative panel that lack of oversight on out-of-state companies is creating an uneven playing field. Gov. Mary Fallin stopped short of saying there should be age limits on the pilots and aircraft who are used to fly university coaches, but she said it was appropriate that Oklahoma State University review its guidelines for athletic travel.

Insurance premiums from employer-issued health insurance plans increased by about 45 percent in Oklahoma between 2003 and 2010. The Tulsa World warns that more cuts to the income tax could do irreversible damage to education and other state services. NewsOK criticizes the fact that Oklahoma is one of only four states with legislatures exempted from state open records laws and one of seven with total immunity from open meetings laws.

The Oklahoma Assets Coalition is looking to hire a Project Manager. The Number of the Day is Oklahoma City’s rank on a list of metropolitan areas with the largest increases in income segregation. In today’s Policy Note, The Century Foundation gives 7 reasons to celebrate the Supercommittee’s failure to reach a deal.

continue reading In The Know: Entry exam for kindergartners part of Oklahoma's grant application

Job Posting: Oklahoma Assets seeks project manager

by | November 21st, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Financial Security | Comments (1)

Oklahoma Assets is seeking a Project Manager to support the development of its organizational structure and implementation of its program and partnership activities.  Oklahoma Assets is a non-profit organization whose mission is to advocate policies and programs that can help create a more inclusive economy – one in which financial success, economic stability, and opportunity is available for all.

continue reading Job Posting: Oklahoma Assets seeks project manager